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Ancient Buddhist stupa emerges from Mekong river in Thailand

Photo via MGR Online

A Buddhist stupa believed to be over 700 years old has emerged from the Mekong River between Laos and northeast Thailand.

Buddhists are flocking to Nong Khai province in Isaan to catch a glimpse of the sacred structure, which has emerged as the river’s water level has drastically fallen as Thailand enters the summer season.

Phra That Lah Nong – also known as Phra That Nong Khai or Phra That Khlang Nam (“Pagoda in the middle of the water“) – was built on the banks of the Mekong River over 700 years ago but tumbled into water 175 years ago near Hat Kham subdistrict.

According to an old chronicle, “Phra That Nong Khai fell into the Mekong River on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month of 1847.” The stupa has been mostly submerged for 170 years, sporadically emerging when water levels drop.

Some people trying to catch a glimpse opted to behold the pagoda from the riverbanks. Others are opting for boats to catch a closer look, but the boat drivers have to be especially careful given that the river’s water levels are as shallow as 0.91 metres in some places.

According to the Urangkhathat (Phra That Phanom) legend, the stupa enshrines nine foot bone relics of the Buddha.

Underwater archaeological surveys revealed that the stupa is 17.2 metres wide, 28.5 metres tall and broken into three pieces.

The stupa is so highly revered by Nong Khai residents that a replica version was built on land in the Mueang district, said to contain Buddhist relics from the original stupa, where residents hold traditions several times per year.

MGR Online reports that there are three boats serving tourists and if they are full then the price is as little as 20 baht each.

In September last year, a 500 year old Buddhist stupa in Chiang Mai collapsed after a storm, revealing ancient relics and amulets. The dramatic moment was caught on camera.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.